Decorating for the Holidays? Keep Safety in Mind

PUBLISHED: Dec 5, 2016

It is an annual tradition in many healthcare organizations – decorating patient units and common areas for the holidays. There is ample research on the psychosocial benefits of holiday decorating of health care facilities.

That said, safety – in particular – fire safety, must be at the forefront of consideration when decorating. Below is a summary of some of some of the key Federal regulations as well as Joint Commission standards that should be considered when decorating a health care facility.

  • Healthcare facilities are required to comply with the 2012 edition of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2012 edition of the LIfe Safety Code and NPFA's 2012 edition of the Health Care Facilities Code. NFPA standards that address holiday decorating include:NFPA 101-2012: 18/19.7.5.6, NFPA 101-2012: 20/21.7.5.4.
  • Joint Commission EC.02.03.01 requires hospitals to manage fire risks. Paper decorations, crepe paper, dried holiday wreaths, cardboard boxes wrapped like presents, metal and live Christmas trees, garland, and menorahs with open flames are all examples of decorations that may be combustible and therefore create a fire risk.
  • Joint Commission LS.02.01.70 also addresses decoration attached to doors and walls.

In addition to the above regulations and standards, organizations should also check their local and state regulations that may have more restrictive requirements. Additionally, the following strategies are considered best practice:

  • Evaluate all holiday decorations for fire safety.
  • Use common communication tools (newsletters, email, posters) to remind staff of decorations policies.
  • Distribute a checklist to patient care unit managers to ensure documentation of the evaluation of holiday decorations for safety.
  • Inspect all decorations, marking them (e.g., place a tag on garland, wreaths) to simplify future inspections.

Included with today’s notice is an example policy and procedure regarding the use of Holiday decorations in health care facilities.

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